Energy Treasure Hunts Show Promise for Savings

Members of seven IUE-CWA locals participated in a pilot project looking at ways to save energy in manufacturing.

A groundbreaking collaboration between Environmental Defense Fund and IUE-CWA got off the ground with the first of six pilot projects to identify energy productivity measures at manufacturing facilities.

Pulling in members from six other locals, IUE-CWA put together a team to work with members at the Cobasys hybrid battery plant to look for ways to reduce energy usage and carbon output.

Over a three-day period, the members identified some 20 projects that if implemented could save the company 18 percent on its energy bills.

This is the first partnership with a union for EDF, which has routinely worked to promote energy-saving opportunities to corporations. For IUE-CWA, the project is a natural outgrowth of its green jobs work and its lean/high performance manufacturing success.

During the pilot phase, teams of IUE-CWA members are being trained by noted energy consultant Bruce Bremer, who got his start at Toyota where the “treasure hunt” concept originated. Toyota and General Electric then worked back and forth to develop the tools to quantify projected savings.

The goal is for the Division to ultimately run its own treasure hunts and offer the service to its employers similar to the work being done in lean manufacturing.

In addition, once the pilot shows the viability of the union-initiated process, EDF and IUE-CWA will start a train-the-trainer program with other unions.

Brendan FitzSimons, EDF’s project manager for corporate partnerships, was amazed at the knowledge and expertise IUE-CWA members brought to the effort.

“The IUE-CWA workers who participated in the treasure hunt brought an impressive depth of practical, first-hand manufacturing technical expertise and knowledge that was invaluable in identifying energy-saving opportunities,” he said. “The treasure hunt provides a great way to tap this resource.”

The project is aimed at helping to overcome some of the barriers that hinder companies from adopting energy-efficiency investments–ranging from limited resources, information gaps and organizational barriers. By addressing these barriers, EDF hopes that companies will start to invest in the many economically attractive energy-savings opportunities that are available.

By increasing its efficiency, the U.S. manufacturing sector can save money on energy costs and protect itself from future energy price increases. These investments also promote U.S. manufacturing competiveness that protect and create new jobs here — and improve environmental performance to boot.

“Energy-efficiency treasure hunts will give IUE-CWA workers new skills to make their companies more productive and competitive,” said IUE-CWA President Jim Clark. “That’s good for our members’ job security and good for their company’s bottom line.”

This content is cross-posted on IUE-CWA.